Mighty Diamonds ‘Pass the knowledge’ 2CD + DVD (VP) 5/5

Mighty Diamonds Pass The Knowledge Reggae Anthology 2013Roots harmony group par excellence, The Mighty Diamonds are something of an institution in Jamaican popular music and rightly so. They have been in existence now for over forty years and so it is only fitting that the group should be celebrated with a special anthology and this is precisely where the current release fits the bill admirably.

The first CD rightly focuses on their long-term collaboration during the 1970s and beyond with producer Jo Jo Hoo Kim at the legendary Channel One studio and some of the most glorious harmonies flowed as a result, backed by the top session band the Revolutionaries. A plethora of classic songs are featured here and among the treasures, compositions such as ‘Shame and Pride’, ‘Country Living’, ‘I need a roof’ and ‘Ghetto Living’ all stand the test of time remarkably well and the social themes present have never been more pertinent. Of interest to devotees in search of the slightly more obscure sides, there is a wonderful cover of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Gypsy Woman’, with the American soul revolution of the late 1960s and early-mid 1970s playing an influential role on the Diamonds, with the Philly sound of the Stylistics and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and the Motown groove of the latter period for the Temptations all playing their part. CD2 is a little more diverse in terms of production chores as they became more popular internationally. Of course the Gussie Clarke produced ‘Pass the Kouchie’ is one of their endearing tunes and was turned into a pop smash by Musical Youth while ‘Morgan the Pirate’ has remained a favourite of roots fans and was produced by no less than DJ Tappa Zukie. Another Channel One production of note surfaces in ‘Body guard’ with bubbling bass and organ while an extended version of the ‘Gates of Zion’ will appeal to any roots devotee. Three unreleased dub plates are included on the first CD with another two added on CD2. Interestingly among roots groups, the Diamonds rarely indulged in lengthy 12″ disco mixes, or even included DJs.

The DVD is a priceless document that captures the Diamonds live in concert at the annual Sun Splash in 1992. Ideally one would have liked it to be longer than the twenty minutes in length, but that said every songs is a winner and despite the inner sleeve warning that the original copy of the video was not in pristine condition, it is perfectly acceptable with clear picture throughout and a decent quality sound. The Diamonds undertook an extensive tour during October. Tim Stenhouse